FULLERTON — Shelton’s big guys paved the way for a big win Friday.
The offensive line of Zach Oliver, Nate Muhlbach and Dakotah Pollard — and their 250-pound average — helped the Class D-2 No. 3-rated Bulldogs rush for 214 yards and eat up the clock in the fourth quarter of a 24-22 win over No. 2 Fullerton.
“Our big guys I think eventually wore them down,” Shelton coach Mike Lowe said. “That was the story of the game.
“Our guys are a lot heavier than their guys, to put it mildly. They were able to start to drive them back, drive them back. That helped out a lot.”
It also helped that Shelton sustained drives as it got off 69 plays to Fullerton’s 49.
“The overall physicality showed up in the second half,” Fullerton coach Ryan Haughton said. “They were able to get too many yards on first downs — seven and eight. When you get put into a second-and-2 and third-and-1, it’s a lot of stress on your defense.”
Despite outgaining Fullerton 136-81 in the first half, Shelton (3-0) found itself trailing 16-12 entering the third quarter thanks to not converting any of its 2-point conversions.
But the Bulldogs’ defense came up with its first big play of the second half right away, stopping the Warriors (2-1) on fourth-and-1 from their own 24-yard line.
Five plays later Shelton took its first lead of the game on Jared Muhlbach’s 2-yard run.
Fullerton answered by taking to the air. Running back Garrett Sonderup, who appeared to be jogging gingerly while warming up at halftime, was hit hard on the first play of the second half and sat out most of the rest of the quarter.
But the passing attack stepped up, and Garett Saum hit Seth Wetovick for an 8-yard touchdown to put Fullerton back ahead 22-18 with 4:35 to go in the third.
Shelton came right back. Quarterback Taryn Hawks, who finished with 101 yards on 25 carries, took the ball into the end zone from 2 yards out to give Shelton the game-winner with 1:34 left in third quarter.
Hawks credited his offensive line.
“They were hammering them,” he said. “It’s great to have that protection. I had a lot of time back there.
“We just pounded it hard, kept wearing them down and kept running on them.”
Lowe said the Bulldogs’ success in the third quarter wasn’t any secret.
“Again it was the big guys — isos, isos, isos,” he said. “We never went away from it. We ran it the whole time and kept it going.”
Neither team scored in the fourth quarter, but it certainly wasn’t a 12-minute period lacking drama.
Shelton twice came up empty in its red zone, and Fullerton was stopped a yard short on fourth down on the Bulldogs’ 9-yard line.
Shelton also came up with the only turnover of the game — a Sonderup fumble — at midfield with 4:22 left. The Bulldogs then ran off all but 23 seconds off the clock.
Fullerton tried to send its homecoming crowd away happy. Saum connected with Wetovick for a 23-yard gain to the Shelton 31-yard line.
After two imcompletions, the Warriors had time for one more play. As he was getting sacked, Saum pitched back to Sonderup who ran to the 17-yard line before Oliver brought him down before he could lateral to end the game.
Prior to that carry, a limited Sonderup had been held to minus-1 yard on five carries in the second half after gaining 51 yards on 10 carries in the first half.
“Their back going out was probably a big story of the game, but our defense was great,” Lowe said. “Their defense was outstanding as well.”
Not having a player so vital to the offense hurt the Warriors.
“Sonderup getting dinged up obviously affected our offense quite a bit, but I was happy with how guys stood up,” Haughton said. “The next man, so to speak, stepped in and gave us a shot here in the end.
“Barring that fumble late in the game, I felt really confident that we were going to take that down and stuff it in to win the ballgame.”
Shelton set the tone of the game on its very first possession, going 65 yards in 17 plays and 6:43 with Hawks plunging in for a 1-yard score on fourth down. Only one play was a pass attempt, and the Bulldogs had just two fewer snaps in that drive than Fullerton had the entire first half.
The Warriors took an 8-6 lead with 1:06 left in the first quarter when Sonderup broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage then scooted free for a 30-yard score.
Cynan Wetovick’s 24-yard touchdown catch from Saum upped the lead to 16-6 after Sonderup’s 2-point conversion with 6:45 left in the first half. Saum completed 10 of 17 passes for 143 yards.
Late in the period, Shelton’s Jose Garcia gained just enough on a reception on fourth-and-10 from the Fullerton 13-yard line. But Garcia suffered a severe knee injury on the play, and the game was halted for 20 minutes while he was treated before being carted off the field to an awaiting ambulance.
On the next play, David Jimenez scored on a 3-yard run to cut the lead to 16-12 at the half.
The strong second half — which saw Shelton regularly gain seven yards on simple quarterback sneaks in the fourth quarter — led to a key win for the Bulldogs.
“This is huge,” Lowe said. “This group that is out there isn’t necessarily the same team from last year. I told them they could take ownership of this team this season by winning a game just like this.
“They stuck in there. That was all on them. They weren’t relying on anybody else.”
Haughton hopes the loss is a learning experience.
“We need to just always have that ‘never say die’ attitude,” he said. “When Sonderup went down, it really kind of rattled us. There for a while in the third quarter we had a lot of ups-and-downs and negative plays where we kind of lean on him to make that big play.
“It just wasn’t there tonight. You’ve got to take hats off to their defense. They didn’t give up the big play to Sonderup. We didn’t give up the big play to Jimenez, but they were able to make enough plays out of their physicality and their tough running game to finish off the game.”
Shelton (3-0) ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 6 6 12—24
Fullerton (2-1) .............. 8 8 6 0—22
S—Hawks 1 run (pass failed), 5:17.
F—Sonderup 30 run (C. Wetovick run), 1:06.
F—C. Wetovick 24 pass from Saum (Sonderup run), 6:45.
S—Jimenez 3 run (pass failed), 0:17.
S—J. Muhlbach 2 run (run failed), 8:09.
F—S. Wetovick 8 pass from Saum (run failed), 4:35.
S—Hawks 2 run (pass failed), 1:34.
RUSHING—S, Hawks 25-101, Jimenez 22-65, J. Muhlbach 10-46, Garcia 3-8, Strauss 2-4. F, Sonderup 16-67, Meyer 3-24, Saum 2-9, Lesiak 2-6, C. Wetovick 1-1, S. Wetovick 6-(minus 1), TEAM 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—S, Hawks 4-7-0 80, F, Saum 10-17-0 143, Meyer 1-1-0 10.
RECEIVING—S, Ellis 2-54, Weyers 1-16, Garcia 1-10. F, Horacek 6-83, S. Wetovick 3-45, C. Wetovick 1-24, Meyer 1-1.
FULLERTON — Shelton’s big guys paved the way for a big win Friday.